Archive for June 2014

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Entertaining People With Alzheimer’s – The Simpler, the Better

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Simple pleasures can indeed bring great joy to people living with Alzheimer’s. Often the activities can be based on something that brought pleasure to the person before getting Alzheimer’s. Here’s a little story that can serve as an example.

When I went to visit Ed one day, I realized I’d forgotten to bring any ‘props’ for the visit. Usually I brought something to amuse Ed such as a new stuffed animal, a book with colorful pictures, some of my photographs, a CD with classical music or something like that.

Those things engaged his mind, to the extent that was still possible, and gave us a focal point for interacting.

Suddenly I realized I was wearing a coat with numerous pockets I was sure he would love to explore. I thought the fact that he enjoyed exploring pockets and compartments in clothing, purses or brief cases so much was somehow related to his life-long fixation on ‘luggages’ and his love of exploring all their different compartments.

He spent 30 minutes gleefully exploring all the pockets in the coat. Then he smiled at me and told me twice how happy he was that I had such a wonderful coat. I was touched that that wonderful demented man was happy for me.

That was so typical of Ed. Instead of saying how happy he was to play with the coat, he said how happy he was that I had it. As I left I felt loved. I also felt deeply gratified I’d been able to bring him so much happiness with a simple coat. Just a simple coat with a few pockets.


When Your Grief Never Ends

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Coping with loss is an ultimately deeply personal and singular experience. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it will only prolong the natural process of healing.

According to the Center for Complicated Grief, for most people, grief never completely goes away but recedes into the background. When grief does not lessen with time, the result is what is called “complicated grief.”

The Mayo Clinic, says that “While normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over a few months, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in a chronic, heightened state of mourning. In complicated grief painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life.”

The article lists the following symptoms of complicated grief:

  • Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one
  • Intense longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Preoccupation with your sorrow
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Depression or deep sadness
  • Trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Lack of trust in others

One of the primary differences between normal grief and complicated grief is that the latter does not recede into the background with time. It consistently interferes with daily life and the eventual ability to move on.

If you suspect you may have complicated grief, it would be wise to seek professional help.


Take Your Loved Ones to a Doctor When They’re Showing Signs of Alzheimer’s

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Unfortunately, in many cases people experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s flat out refuse to consult a doctor.

You may be able to reason with those who have mild symptoms, although it may take several discussions before they agree to be seen. You might also ask a good friend or favorite relative to speak with the person. Sometimes people will pay more attention to someone other than the primary caregiver. You could also ask the person’s physician or attorney to talk with them about it.

The Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter suggests that you seize the opportunity. Suggest a check-up if your loved one expresses any concern about ‘not remembering things lately.’ You could explain that there are new medications that may help with memory, but they must be prescribed by a doctor.

Another piece of advice is to ask them to see the doctor as a favor to you. At times, loved ones will do something for others that they would not do for themselves.

Those with more advanced symptoms may not be amenable to a logical discussion. You may have to use what we call ‘therapeutic fibbing.’ For example, tell the person you have a doctor’s appointment and ask them to go with you. This of course would have to be prearranged so the physician would know the real reason for the visit.

Finally, as a last resort, the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association chapter says you may have to call Protective Services. If your loved one has become a danger to themselves, or if their well-being in in jeopardy, outside help might be required.

5 Tips for Dealing With Family Conflict

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Having a family member with Alzheimer’s disease is a stressful situation that can create conflict within families.

The Mayo clinic has the following advice for families where there is significant strife: 1) Share responsibility, 2) Meet face-to-face regularly, 3) Ask someone to mediate if needed, 4) Be honest and don’t criticize, 5) Join a support group, and/or seek family counseling.

In my case the closest family member, who lived out of town, insisted that Ed only needed to go to an assisted living facility. I knew that wouldn’t work because of his incontinence (of both bowel and bladder), because he couldn’t have found his way back and forth to dining room and, furthermore, he wouldn’t have even wanted to go to the dining room. Neither was he capable or showering and dressing himself or do his own laundry – and the list goes on and on. I was certain they would have asked him to leave after two or three days.

There was tremendous conflict between the two of us, and, unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the tips above and we didn’t follow any of them. The conflict didn’t disappear until Ed had passed away and there was no longer anything to argue about.